The Recovery that Isn’t

In a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal about post-Panic borrowing increases, James Sterngold and Matt Wirz had an interesting graphic showing the evolution of the US economy from just prior to that Panic to today.  Excerpted below is the part of that graphic indicating the jobs market evolution.

The graph is hard to read; here are some highlights:

  • More than 21 million Americans wanting a job at the 2010 peak, over 18 million still in that strait today.
  • Just under 16 million Americans out of work for at least 27 weeks (over 6 months), still nearly 12 million in that strait today.
  • Dropping out of the market due to discouragement in finding work—of any sort—peaking at over 1 million per year and still nearly that today.
  • Labor force participation rate near a 35 year low.

And there’s this, which takes a longer look at that last bullet:

Notice that bit on the right: after the Panic’s official end, participation rate continued to plummet.

As the WSJ points out,

If the participation rate merely returned to what it was at the end of the recession, nearly four million more Americans would be collecting a paycheck.

Had our recovery progressed as a normal one does, we’d be here:

A normal recovery coming out of a downturn as deep and steep as the Panic of 2009 typically sees growth rates of 5%-6% per year, or more.  This Obama recovery has been 6.7% over the entirety of his term in office—nearly five years.  Had we seen a normal recovery (and using a pessimistic 5%/year growth rate), we would have reached today’s unemployment rate after a bit over one year—late 2010—and we would have been back to full employment (in the range of 4.8%-5.5%) in just under 2 years—two years ago.

Had our recovery progressed as President Barack Obama promised it would when he was stumping for and signing the massive 2009 Stimulus Bill, we’d be here:

He promised in 2009 a 5.5% unemployment rate by a couple of years ago.  How many new jobs would have been created had we actually reached his promised number?  In December 2009 (some six months after the nominal end of the Panic of 2009), the civilian labor force was 153 million, of which 137.8 million Americans were employed, a 10% unemployment rate, according to BLS statistics, and using round numbers.

In August 2013, again using BLS numbers, the civilian labor force was larger, at 155.5 million (and it had a smaller participation rate than in 2009, but we’ll gloss over that for now).  There were some 144.2 million Americans actually employed.

However, a 5.5% unemployment rate corresponds, if my 1st grade arithmetic serves me well, to 94.5% of the civilian labor force actually employed: 146.5 million Americans.  Again consulting my 1st grade arithmetic book, there are some 2.3 million Americans that should be employed but aren’t—because Obama’s proudly proclaimed policies have come up short, and we aren’t anywhere near 5.5% unemployment.

Finally, there’s this:

Current population: 313.9 million
Current civilian labor force: 155.5 million
Current labor force participation rate: 63.2
Current unemployment rate: 7.3%
Employed Americans: 144.2 million
Unemployed Americans: 11.3 million of those looking for work

2007 population: 301.1 million
2007 civilian labor force (last full year before the Panic): 153.1 million
2007 labor force participation rate: 65.8%
2007 unemployment rate: 4.6%
2007 Employed Americans: 146 million
2007 unemployed Americans: 7.1 million

Over the last six years, our population grew by 4.3%; our labor force population grew less than that, at 1.6%; our employed population shrank by 1.2%; and our unemployed population grew, a lot.  We’re not even keeping up.

Yet despite these obvious failures of Progressive policies, Obama and his Senate counterparts threaten to shut down our government and blow up our national credit rating and with it our economy, if he’s not allowed to have more spending increases, yet higher taxes, and a yet higher debt ceiling so he can borrow to pay for his spending (because he knows higher taxes won’t cover it; he just wants the higher taxes because…well, just because).

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